In an epic start to the journey, the team of Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and their trusty pilot, Erika Bergman, entered their submarine and started descending. Audiences could see the submarine as it slowly went down into the giant dark blue hole. As if the event wasn’t entertaining enough, the three brilliant explorers were cracking jokes and making observations every step of the way. Their aquatic submarine was top of the line and gave an almost 360-degree view into the action.
The team kept descending for about 10 minutes inside their submarine until they began to get close to the walls of the blue hole. To many, this vista looked like the result of a giant bomb or asteroid, one that blew a 400-foot hole right inside the ocean. At first, it appeared to the experienced team that the formations of this hole were steep and mechanic. As they kept descending into the depths, Branson, Cousteau, and Bergman soon found out that they were in a completely different location than they had ever expected.
Environment Explorer and Advocate
Since the '90s, Branson has been involved in various humanitarian causes. He worked with Nelson Mandela to try and solve a variety of global conflicts, helped found and sponsor the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and opened a school of entrepreneurship in South Africa. All this before 2005. In 2006, Branson also pledged to invest $3 billion towards helping address the concerns of global warming advocates and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Branson also hosted an environmental event at one of his private islands in the Caribbean, where he likely received the idea of exploring the Great Blue Hole in Belize. If there's anyone who is suited for this mission, it surely is this adventurous and extravagantly wealthy dude. His vast access to financial resources and positive “let’s get it done” mentality was just the right thing for this kind of mission. But even Branson wasn’t prepared for what the group was about to find.
The World Was Watching
The scope and size of this mission drew countless viewers from all over the world. While we have seen men and women attempt to fly into space in the past, there was never such a televised adventure into the depths of the earth. This scientific team was backed by one of the best divers in the world, as well as the world’s most extravagant billionaire. While geologists pondered the depth and properties of the Great Blue Hole, audiences at home were excited about the novelty. Many people truly believed that the team was going to find a giant monster down there, or perhaps even a few of them.
Richard Branson had referred to the mission as a “planetary inner space” exploration. This was truly the closest thing you can get to a real-life science fiction film. Young Americans who grew up reading Henry Melville's "Moby Dick" all had a chance to relive their childhood memory through this great mission. The team was as prepared as they could be, all equipment was functioning and ready, and the audience at home was full of excitement. This mission was ready to begin, and the whole world was watching as the entire event was televised live on the Discovery Channel.
Weird Cave Configurations
When the team began reaching the bottom of the Great Blue Hole, they began finding strange formations inside its caves. Something about the geology didn’t look right, and they had a strong suspicion that it was once above the surface. The vegetation and stalactites of the caves had pointed clearly to it not being underwater at one point. The two experts clearly identified that many of the structures that they found were created on dry land. This was completely baffling to the team — how could a cave that is more than 400 feet deep once have been above water?
There was only one possible culprit in Branson’s eyes. It was the same force that he had been fighting for many years now and spent billions to alleviate. Fabien Cousteau and Erika Bergman also knew what the most likely cause of this unexpected phenomenon was. For them, it could only spell a horrible sign of things that may come again in the future. So how does a cave that is found tens of miles away from any land possibly go from being above ground to more than 400 feet beneath the ocean? Branson was about to reveal the answer.
Branson’s Dire Warning
In an almost movie-like realization, the team understood that they were not diving into a hole in the ocean but climbing down what was once a series of mountains. For Richard Branson, this was the strongest evidence he had ever seen of the dangers that climate change poses. To him, this was “One of the starkest reminders of the danger of climate change” and should be televised and explained for the entire world to notice. This large hole was caused at the end of an ice age by a melting series of icebergs of magnitudes that are virtually unimaginable in today’s perception.
This entire area was once a large piece of land and was completely swamped by the rising sea levels in the Caribbean. Luckily, history, geography, and biology always leave traces, which allowed the team to easily figure out which rocks were underwater in the past and which ones were not. Right at the 300-foot depth mark, the team noticed a considerable shift in the color and kind of rocks they were looking at. This was a clear sign for them that anything below that point was underwater for a much longer time.